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Milestones in our History: Honorary Degrees Awarded at UNF

Universities award prestigious honorary degrees to distinguished individuals in recognition of their outstanding achievements in their respective fields. The degree is awarded Honoris Causa, or cause to be honored, and the conferment of an honorary degree is the highest tribute a University can bestow. Since 1979, UNF has awarded a number of honorary degrees, usually at commencement exercises, to these notable individuals to acknowledge and recognize their contributions to the University, the community, or the nation.


Elliot L. Richardson headshot

Elliot L. Richardson (Doctor of Laws, June 11, 1979)

Former U.S. Ambassador and Special Representative to President Jimmy Carter. His long governmental career included service in four Presidental Cabinets as Secretary of Commerce, Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. In particular, Richardson is remembered for his 1973 role in the Watergate crisis during President Nixon's second term. He resigned his position as Attorney General in response to Nixon's order to fire Archibald Cox, Special Watergate Prosecutor. In addition to receiving the initial UNF honorary degree, Richardson delivered the address at the spring commencement ceremony held for the first time on the University Green.
John E. Mathews headshot

John E. Mathews, Jr. (Doctor of Humane Letters, May 7, 1983)

State legislator (1956-70), President of Florida Senate (1969-70), and Florida Gubernatorial candidate, 1963 & 1969-70. In addition to his other major contributions to the Northeast Florida community as a state senator, Mathews was an ardent proponent of a public university in Jacksonville, and played a pivotal role in its creation from 1963-1968. In 1988, the newly built UNF Computer and Information Sciences building was named in his honor. The Library holds an extensive Mathews Personal Papers Collection in Special Collections.
Samuel A. Grimes headshot

Samuel A. Grimes (Doctor of Science, May 5, 1984)

A pioneer in bird photography and well known for his many contributions to the field of ornithology. His photographic work was included in prestigious magazines and encyclopedias, and Grimes' photographs provided most of the covers for the Florida Naturalist for more than a decade. His painstaking research and meticulous field work has served as a model and guide for future naturalists.

Ira M. Koger headshot

Ira M. Koger (Doctor of Humane Letters, May 4, 1985)

Prominent Jacksonville businessman and real estate developer, and an avid supporter of the arts in the local community and at UNF. His civic interests included: ensuring the early financial stability of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the formation of the St. Johns River City Band, and extensive support of WJCT, the local public television station. His major gift to UNF in 1986 to fund the underwriting of the University's third Eminent Scholar Chair, in American Music, laid the foundation for the development of UNF's internationally recognized American Music and Jazz studies programs.
William V. Chappell headshot

William V. Chappell, Jr. (Doctor of Laws, May 2, 1987)

Member, U.S. House of Representatives, and attorney. He spent most of his adult life in public service, as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1954 to 1964/1966-68, and then as a distinguished and longtime U. S. House of Representatives member from 1969 to 1989. In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Chappell delivered the address at the spring commencement ceremony on May 2, 1987.

James H. Webb Jr headshot

James H. Webb, Jr. (Doctor of Letters, April 30, 1988)

U.S. Senator (2007-), former Secretary of the Navy, military activist, journalist and author of six best-selling books. His career has alternated between extensive government service, writing, and film production. His work as a screenwriter and producer for the PBS coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut earned him an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Webb delivered the address at the spring commencement ceremony on April 30, 1988.

Frederick H. Schultz headshot

Frederick H. Schultz. (Doctor of Letters, May 6, 1989)

Florida state legislator (1963-1970), Governor, Federal Reserve Board, prominent Jacksonville businessman, and strong education advocate. His gift to the University in 1987 established a $1 million endowed Chair in Economic Development and Educational Policy named after UNF Interim President Andrew A. Robinson. Schultz was a major contributor to the development of the Florida Institute of Education, the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership, and the UNF Irish Studies program. The College of Education and Human Services Building (building 9) was named the Frederick H. Schultz Hall on May 22, 1992. In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Schultz delivered the address at the spring commencement ceremony on May 6, 1989.
J. J. Daniel headshot

J. J. Daniel. (Doctor of Letters, August 5, 1989)

Jacksonville attorney, businessman, and community leader. As publisher of the Florida Times-Union from 1976-1982, and as Chairman of the Local Government Study Commission, he played a key role in fostering Jacksonville's consolidated government. He served on the Florida Board of Regents (1971-1982) and its predecessor, the Board of Control (1957-1961), and chaired both Boards during his tenure. In recognition of his leadership in the founding of UNF, and his many contributions to Jacksonville and higher education in Florida, the UNF administration building (1) was named the J. J. Daniel Hall in his honor on February 1, 1991.
Charles E. Bennett headshot

Charles E. Bennett. (Doctor of Letters, December 14, 1990)

Member, U. S. House of Representatives, 1949-1993. Bennett was Florida's longest serving congressman, serving more than 44 years under nine presidents before retiring in 1993. He set a voting record in Congress, for not missing a single legislative vote in nearly 35 years. His governmental career and his legacy were highlighted by his introduction and vigorous support of an ethics code for government service, a bill making the phrase "In God We Trust" the U.S. motto and requiring it be included on all coins and currency, and important environmental, conservation, and national park legislation. He was instrumental in the creation of the Fort Caroline National Memorial in Jacksonville and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. In addition to his distinguished government service, Bennett was a historian and the author of seven books on Northeast Florida history.
Billy Taylor headshot

Billy Taylor. (Doctor of Humane Letters, May 1, 1992)

Acclaimed jazz musician, composer, arranger, author, broadcaster and educator. Noted not only for his music, Taylor is a prolific writer, numbering 13 books on jazz, several of which served as the basis for his award winning National Public Radio series. His many awards include his inductment into the International Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame. In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Taylor gave the address at the spring commencement ceremony on May 1, 1992 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Stetson Kennedy headshot

Stetson Kennedy. (Doctor of Humane Letters, August 5, 1994)

Prominent local author, folklorist and legendary civil rights activist. Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and wrote about his experiences in The Klan Unmasked, Southern Exposure, and Jim Crow Guide. A significant part of his life has been committed to the fight against racism and bigotry. On April 6, 2005, he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, the highest and most prestigious cultural honor bestowed by the State of Florida.
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William Halamandaris. (Doctor of Humane Letters, May 5, 1995)

A leader in the non-profit sector, Halamandaris was co-founder and President of the Caring Institute, established in 1985 to promote selflessness and public service. He also co-founded three other national non-profit organizations and served as Director of the National HomeCaring Council and Secretary of America's Charities. A well-known author, he has also produced, written and directed several PBS documentaries. In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Halamandaris also delivered the address at the spring commencement ceremony on May 5, 1995.
J. Brooks Brown headshot

J. Brooks Brown. (Doctor of Humane Letters, December 10, 1999)

Prominent Jacksonville surgeon and UNF benefactor who has been a leader in health care education and innovation. His generosity to UNF resulted in the establishment of the Genesis Distinguished Professorship, the Genesis Health Scholars and four College of Health research professorships. The College of Health building was named in his honor on September 30, 1997. Nine years later, on March 31, 2006, the University announced the renaming of the College, Brooks College of Health. At the College naming ceremony, Dr. J. Brooks Brown also announced an endowed professorship in the College named after Dean Pam Chally. (J. Brooks Brown Hall information)
Elaine L. Konigsburg headshot

Elaine L. Konigsburg. (Doctor of Humane Letters, May 4, 2001)

Acclaimed local author and frequent illustrator of over 20 books for young adults, she has twice received the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature, an annual award given to the most distinguished children's book author of that year. Konigsburg was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2000. In addition to receiving the honorary degree, Konigsburg also delivered the address at the spring commencement ceremony on May 4, 2001.
Yank D. Coble Jr headshot

Yank D. Coble, Jr., M.D. (Doctor of Humane Letters, May 2, 2003)

A Jacksonville physician and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Florida, Jacksonville (now Shands Jacksonville Medical Center). For over forty years, Dr. Coble has been active in medical research and in the medical profession. He served as past President of the American Society of Internal Medicine, the Florida Medical Association and the Duval County Medical Society. For his distinguished service, he was awarded the Florida Medical Association's highest honor, the Certificate of Merit. He also served the American Medical Association (AMA) in some capacity since 1974, and in 2002 became its President. He is currently Director of UNF's Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy, and Chair of the Caring Community Conference.

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Dave Brubeck. (Doctor of Humane Letters, February 11, 2005)

Renowned jazz musician, composer, and bandleader. In addition to being a jazz legend, he has written and recorded several large-scale works, including a musical, an oratorio, four cantatas, a mass and works for jazz group and orchestra. In 1994, President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts. Other prestigious honors include his selection in 1999 as a National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Master and his inductment into the International Association of Jazz Educators. Brubeck received the honorary degree at his 85th Birthday Celebration concert, which was a highlight of the University's Great American Jazz Series.
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Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu. (Doctor of Humane Letters, November 12, 2005)

As a clergyman, scholar, educator, and humanist, Archbishop Tutu is an internationally recognized leader and spokesperson against social and political injustices. Elected as the first black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg and Cape Town, Archbishop Tutu led South Africa's 1.6 million-member Anglican Church until his retirement in 1996. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his role in opposing apartheid in South Africa. In the mid-1990's, he again took a pivotal role heading South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated and documented the abuses of apartheid. In 1999, he was a guest speaker at UNF as part of the Presidential Lecture series, and returned to campus in 2003 to teach three courses on the struggle against apartheid.
Colville N. Young headshot

His Excellency, Sir Colville N. Young. (Doctor of Humane Letters, April 28, 2006)

Governor-General of Belize, noted fine arts scholar, accomplished musician, and leading educator and former President of the University of Belize. His leadership and vision were instrumental in establishing the initial degree granting program between the UNF College of Education and Human Services and the University of Belize / Ministry of Education. Each year several COEHS faculty members travel to work with Belizean teachers seeking advanced degrees in education. As a result of this long-term partnership, 300 Belizean students have graduated through the joint program, with many now holding major educational, governmental and business positions in Belize. Based on his many educational and civic contributions, Sir Colville was chosen by Queen Elizabeth in 1993 to be her representative in Belize as Head of State.

Edith A. Perez headshot

Dr. Edith A. Perez. (Doctor of Humane Letters, August 4, 2006)

Dr. Edith Perez is an internationally known medical researcher and the Director of the Cancer Clinical Study Unit at Mayo Clinic Florida, as well as being a professor of medicine at the Mayo Medical School. She chaired a national breast cancer study that has significantly changed the standard of care for treating breast cancer patients. For her landmark medical achievements, Dr. Perez has received numerous academic, professional and service awards, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation Research Grant Award (1998-2010), Crusader for Breast Cancer Award and the Horizon Scientific Cancer Research Award. Her service to the UNF community includes presentations for the Brooks College of Health's Health Initiative, and a Music Department salute to Breast Cancer Survivors.

Patty Duke headshot

Patty Duke. (Doctor of Humane Letters, December 14, 2007)

Actress, author, and leading advocate for social issues, Duke has had a long and varied acting career in films, Broadway plays, television, and cartoons (voice-over). As a child she starred in her own television sitcom, and in 1962, became the youngest actress to ever win an Oscar for her role of young Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker." Duke's acting awards also include two Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, six Emmy nominations, and a People's Choice Award. Her strong commitment to the acting community also included a term as President of the Screen Actors Guild. Her efforts to educate the public on mental health issues have served as an inspiration and beacon of hope for many individuals.

Juergen Osterbrink headshot

Dr. Juergen Osterbrink (Doctor of Humane Letters, December 10, 2010)

Nurse, teacher, researcher in nursing and public health, academic and humanitarian, Osterbrink is the founding dean and professor of the Institute of Nursing Science at the Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria. The Institute is the first such academic institute of its kind operated by and for nurses. As a result of Osterbrink's efforts, UNF's nursing students have participated in clinical rotations in Austria. His research efforts in the pain treatment of patients culminated in the "Pain Free Hospital" project in Europe, and the ongoing "Pain Free Town" initiative in Muenster, Germany. As a clinical professor in the UNF Brooks College of Health, Osterbrink has helped to put the School of Nursing in a visible position in health care education.

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